Kendrick Perkins could miss all of training camp and perhaps each of the Thunder's seven preseason games while recovering from wrist surgery.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Wednesday that the team is hoping to have its starting center back in time for the season opener at San Antonio on Nov. 1.
“What we're trying to do is have him ready for the first game, or the beginning of the regular season,” Presti said at his annual preseason news conference. “His conditioning, his fitness and his levels, he's done a fantastic job. His wrist is a thing that we have to be very cautious with and we will be.”
Perkins underwent a surgical procedure on July 19 to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist. It was one of two surgeries Perkins needed this offseason. The other came just eight days earlier to repair a groin injury.
As recently as two weeks ago, Perkins was still wearing a brace on his left hand while appearing at a community event at a local middle school. He said then that the surgery required a three-month healing process. Thursday marks week 10, putting his projected return at Oct. 11.
The Thunder starts training camp Monday and will play its first preseason game Oct. 10. By the sound of it, the Thunder will ease Perkins back in rather than rush him into action in any of the remaining six exhibition games.
That might explain the team's decision to bring four centers into camp this year. Cole Aldrich is projected to be Perkins' primary backup, and the team signed Hasheem Thabeet this summer while also adding former Bishop McGuinness standout Daniel Orton to its training camp roster.
None of the three backups has proven himself in the NBA thus far.
“That will give some opportunities to the other guys during camp,” Presti said of Perkins' injury.
Presti said Thunder coach Scott Brooks will determine which player ultimately is Perkins' backup. Aldrich, however, seems set to slide into the role vacated by Nazr Mohammed, now with Chicago The Thunder traded up to get Aldrich at the 11th overall spot in the 2010 draft, and in two years Aldrich has played in only 44 games.
But Presti praised all of the team's big men for the strides they've made this summer.
“I feel good about the guys that we have in camp,” Presti said. “Hasheem has done a very good job this summer. His conditioning has vastly improved. Cole's done a nice job. We know what we did last year in limited opportunities. So we'll evaluate that and Scott will make those decisions as we get through training camp.”
Orton's place on the team probably is the least secure. If he doesn't beat out Thabeet or recently signed swingman Hollis Thompson for the final roster spot, Orton likely will join the Thunder-owned Tulsa 66ers. Presti, though, talked Wednesday about what attracted the organization to Orton, who the team is believed to have had an eye on back during the 2010 draft.
“Daniel's a talented player,” Presti said. “He's had some things not go his way with the injury. But we like him. He's got a nice edge to him. He's got a high basketball IQ for a young guy. He knows what's going on on the floor, and he's done great work since he's been here. So we're excited to see him in camp.”